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'He's the face of my division' - Kiwi MMA prospect Kai Kara-France on landing UFC contract and training under flyweight champ Henry Cejudo

For New Zealand mixed martial artist Kai Kara-France, combat sports was a saving grace as a youngster.

The flyweight said he was cheering on his former coach Cejudo, who was crowned the new UFC flyweight champ at the weekend. Source: 1 NEWS

Now, the flyweight fighter has signed a contract with the biggest MMA organisation in the world – the UFC.

Kara-France was on UFC's Ultimate Fighter season 24 series in 2016, where he fought under new flyweight champion Henry Cejudo.

Cejudo is an Olympic American wrestling gold medallist who beat the pound-for-pound number one fighter Demetrious Johnson by split decision at UFC 227 in Las Vegas on Sunday.

"This guy (Cejudo), he's pretty much the face of my division now, so it was great to rub shoulders with those kind of people and just kind of network off all these different athletes.

"Here we are now two years later after the Ultimate Fighter and now we are in the UFC, finally.

"It was an honour to pick his brain, he is an Olympic gold medallist in wrestling as well, a tremendous athlete.

"We still stay in contact, he wanted to come out do his fight camp for this fight (UFC 227 flyweight champion bout), actually just to train with him and help him out, I can make that schedule and make that time to train with the champ.

"But I was in limbo of what I was doing so I couldn’t make that call, but now since I am in the UFC I can kind of structure my year-schedule and now if he wants me to come."

The 25-year-old was sent a special video message by UFC president Dana White, who welcomed him into the MMA organisation last month.

The Auckland fighter said the news didn't sink in until his fighting coach Eugene Bareman congratulated him.

"When I hugged Eugene he told me in my ear 'all that hard work has paid off.' that's when the water works started coming out," he said.

"Emotion took over, it's only because I've worked so hard for this and it was a great moment."

Kara-France told 1 NEWS that he got into combat sports as a teenager after being picked on for his size.

"I got into the sport at a young age, when I was 13 that is when I started Ju-Jitsu, but my parents got me into it because I had confidence issues when I was growing up.

"Just because I was so small and so short I'd get bullied a bit, so not just to defend myself, but just to install that confidence in me as a young man.

"You learn a lot about yourself in an individual sport like this, when times get tough you want to know that you can get through to the other side and be okay.

"So that's what I always want to push for the younger generation as well, not just to think you can defend yourself in a fight, but it's about the way you hold yourself as a martial artist."

Representing New Zealand on the combat sports scene has been one of Kara-France's biggest ambitions for a long time.

"I love representing where I have come from, my people and showcasing how much talent we have in New Zealand."

The flyweight fighter says landing a UFC contract is like making the All Blacks.

"For us it's kind of like making the All Blacks being in the UFC, seeing it as a possibility for the new generation - it's awesome to see."

Kara-France's MMA coach Bareman said his fighter deserves everything that has come his way.

"It's tremendously satisfying getting Kai signed, he has been working at this almost his entire adult life and part of his childhood as well," said Bareman.

"He's run into a few bumps and hurdles and to finally get this over the line, it's really satisfying for me and obviously for him.

"We've achieved this but now we have got to move on because we have got some work to do."

Nigeria-born UFC middleweight star Israel Adesanya, who is a teammate of Kara-France at the City Kickboxing team, praised him for his work ethic.

"He's right there where he belongs," said Adesanya.

"He's worked with the best and is working with the best now."

It is not known when Kara-France will make his debut in the UFC, but his team are hoping to get a spot on the UFC Fight Night event on December 1 in Adelaide, Australia.

The powerful 125-pounder (57kg) has an MMA record of 17 wins, sevens losses with nine KO finishes and three submission wins.